As downtown Tucson’s newest student living complex is nearing completion, the relationships built between the surrounding community, the developer and the general contractor serve as a guide for responsible urban development in today’s community-minded environment.
Construction on Greystar Real Estate Partners’ Union on 6th, located on the corner of 4th Avenue and 6th Street, is expected to be finished in early summer 2021, according to senior director of development Billy Cundiff. The 292,516 square foot building with 36,000 square feet of commercial space sits on the property that previously housed local music venue The Flycatcher. The real estate company also owns the adjacent development, District on 5th.
It’s a prime location attractive to both college students and companies looking for a built-in customer base. Greystar is currently working with Volk Company Commercial Real Estate to facilitate leasing agreements with residents and businesses ahead of the completion date.
“We’ve had quite a bit of interest from restaurateurs and other local businesses,” Cundiff said. “Right now, as we are getting things in better shape construction-wise, we’ve really turned our focus to the leasing aspect. We don’t have any leases executed at the moment but excitement is building.”
Union on 6th will have 252 units of residential living space including studios starting at $1,365 a month, 1-bedrooms going for $1,625 a month or residents could save by taking on roommates in the 2-bedroom and 3-bedroom accommodations for a little over a grand a month. Units are finished with amenities like on-site maintenance, washer/dryers, dishwasher, refrigerator, balcony and some utilities. The complex also has a swimming pool, fitness center, business center and a community clubhouse with pool tables.
While the development might be a hit with students and businesses, it certainly was not popular with the surrounding businesses and community when first announced. DeeDee Koenen, co-founder of the Historic Fourth Avenue Coalition, said while they may still have some issues with the dynamics of the project, they felt as they were included in the development process with Greystar and general contractor CHASSE Building Team.
“Honestly, I think the majority of the coalition still doesn’t think it is to scale for what Fourth Avenue is. But we could either have some faceoff or we could be a part of the process,” said Koenen. “We thought the most important thing was being a part of the process and getting information.”
The community group was able to secure a Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) with Greystar in December 2018 that includes localism in all commercial spaces with market-rate rent controls for eight years after the development opens, according to Koenen. The group also received $100,000 in mitigation for the coalition’s future projects, forums and promotions.
“We’ve had a pretty good relationship with them [Greystar] and CHASSE, from the get-go, was ready to chip in and roll up their sleeves and helped with any project we brought to them because they knew we had the CBA in place,” said Koenen. “But the truth is, it’s a big inconvenience to build an eight-story project in the middle of our business district.”
Two of their projects were aimed at helping beautify the area while construction continued. The coalition had asked local community artists to submit an idea to paint murals on large canvases, which would be hung around the development area and help instill a sense of community while many locals mourned the loss of their favorite neighborhood hangout, the Flycatcher.
CHASSE’s director of client services Leigh-Anne Harrison said the company knew they had to change the adversarial tone taken by many in the local community to shift the culture and work together. The contractor supplied the materials needed for the coalition’s beautification projects and helped keep the coalition up to date with any and all changes that could affect local businesses and their customers.
“That was probably the piece we had to work through was shifting the culture with an organization that didn’t support the project to see that we’re partners with them,” Harrison said. “We’ve worked with the community more with this project than any other and we feel like we raised the bar. We plan to continue doing things like this on our projects.”